|You know, if Sainristil makes this catch, I really feel the second half feels very different. |
(Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)
Compared to some, I've been aroundBut I really tried so hard
That echo chorus lied to me with itsHold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
--"Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case from her 2008 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
There is something to be said for the idea that winning a game where you look terrible for an entire half. Michigan fans certainly have a number of these wins during the Harbaugh era that we can point to [gestures wildly towards 2019 Army], but it doesn't mean we have to like them.
Four home games in a row is a lot to ask of fans, especially after a year off. First one, WOO, we're back. Second one, WOO, night game. Third one, OK, um, well, we're scoring a lot. Four one, Homecoming, and...Rutgers. So there's something to be said for looking really good in the first half. A 17 play drive that takes up a full 1/8th of the game, and ending in a Haskins touchdown. And sure, Rutgers went on their own six-minute, but that ended in a field goal, so we're good. Then a fast 4 play, 72-yard drive thanks to two big passing plays, a personal foul for a horse collar, and another Haskins touchdown. So a stop on downs, an exchange of punts, and a field goal after the throw pictured above just missed, and then Michigan taking advantage of some...interesting Rutgers decision making, only to make some interesting decisions of their own in the last fifteen seconds, including a near miss to Schoonmaker, lands another Moody field goal and Michigan up 20-3. Sure, Rutgers got the ball first to start the second half and Josh Ross had gone off with a stinger, but, Michigan was up 17.
3 plays for 0 yards.
3 plays for -1 yards.
3 plays for 7 yards (which came on a third down QB scramble).
3 plays for 5 yards.
While this was happening, Rutgers scored 10 points and missed a field goal. Also, Michigan Stadium was doing the wave, because we have had a complete breakdown in Wave Discipline due to the pandemic. Look to your elders, people.
Rutgers gets the ball after a punt on their own 34 with 7:57 left in the second half. After six yards from Isaih Pacheco and 13 on the ground from Noah Vedral (side note: I love that players can wear #0, but man it looks wrong on a quarterback), Rutgers is first and ten on the Michigan 47. Michigan's defense is gassed because the offense can't seem to stay on the field for more than 90 seconds at a time. Now it's third and one, and Michigan's defense finally shows up and gets a stop for a loss. Now fourth and a long two, the defense comes up big again and gets the ball back on downs, again.
So when Blake Corum went outside for nine yards, it felt like Michigan finally remembered there were multiple ways to move the ball, then followed by six up the gut, and another two. Then a gift of a face mask penalty and Michigan is first and ten on the Rutgers 30 with 3:14 left. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking "OK, a few more yards, center it for Moody, and we'll get out of this damn thing alive." Well, you could be forgiven that unless you were the Michigan offensive staff, because that's what they apparently did, only to see Moody miss a 47 yarder. 104 seconds left, can Rutgers do it?
No, they could not. The Thane of Fife himself, David Ojabo, forced the fumble, Junior Colson scooped it up, and Michigan survived.
"Hang on tight and survive. Everybody does."
There's no great lesson for the fan here beyond scoring a lot of points is way more fun than not, that the running game is not as vaunted as it may have seemed in the first three games, but ugly wins are still wins and Michigan gets out of September unscathed. But the things to work on this week are plentiful, and Camp Randall, a place Michigan has not won at in 20 years, looms. But for now, be glad that 20 points was enough.